Archive for Freedom of Religion

Murfreesboro Mosque Saga May be Finally Coming to an End

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , on April 5, 2012 by loonwatch

A lot has happened since the Murfreesboro mosque first became a point of controversy for bigots and hatemongers. We hope to do a a feature piece summarizing the drama that played out over it, what it means for freedom of religion and the future in an upcoming article:

Attorneys ask judge to throw out legal challenge to Murfreesboro Islamic Center

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — The final legal hurdle over construction of a mosque in Murfreesboro may be over.

County attorneys asked a judge to throw out the final legal challenge on Wednesday. Opponents have argued the county failed to give sufficient public notice before approving the project.

The judge will review the motion on April 19. County officials are hoping he will toss out a lawsuit that claims they did not give proper notice when approving building plans for the new Islamic Center of Murfreesboro.  Mosque opponents say they are readying a response.

Meanwhile, major progress has been made in construction of the center.  Distinctive arches have taken shape, the frame of the building is complete and workers are starting to put bricks around it.

“We are so excited,” said Imam Ossama Bahloul.  “I think when we have the new facility it will be a time for us to celebrate freedom of religion.”

Asra Nomani: Government Should Tell Muslims How to Worship

Posted in Feature, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , on July 18, 2011 by loonwatch

Freedom of worship is one of our most invaluable rights. It means that I have the complete freedom and the human right to worship God the way I see fit or to not worship, provided that I uphold the standards of civil law. Thomas Jefferson so eloquently wrote:

That no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burdened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in nowise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.

[The Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom]

This human right is the cornerstone of our democracy. It keeps the political conversation rational, among other things, and prevents our nation from degenerating further into partisan religious delinquency. So, naturally, I am dismayed when I see this most basic and cherished freedom become a casualty in our national discourse on Islam and Muslims.

Observe Asra Nomani, whom we’ve criticized before for supporting racial profiling, in her latest draconian suggestion; if mosques do not bow to the demands of her ideology, they should be denied tax exempt status (i.e. forced to shutdown from crippling taxes). How did she arrive at such a conclusion?

Nomani says she is fighting Gender Apartheid:

Our goal was to walk through the front double doors designated for “brothers” and pray in the forbidden space of the opulent musallah, or main hall, of the mosque.

She paints herself as a freedom fighter, a successor to Martin Luther King Jr. But the question is: why do Muslim men and women pray in separate spaces? Is it sexism?

Until a point in time when we live in a “genderless” society (maybe something Asra advocates?), men and women are generally considered distinguished entities and traditional religions tend to take this into account. In the case of the majority of Muslims, men and women pray in separate places for the five congregational prayers because the Quran says:

Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty: that will make for greater purity for them… And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof… (24:30-31)

Pious Muslims are not supposed to gawk with lust at members of the other sex. This applies in daily life and even more so in the ritual prayer in which concentration and focus should be directed towards God and not the opposite sex. Separating men and women in the Muslim prayer is therefore considered a matter of modesty; not that women are inferior or have less rights. Thus, separate prayer halls in themselves are not an indication that women are being mistreated or denied access to the mosque.

But perhaps the issue is that women have a less nice area to pray in or are being denied access to the mosque altogether. On this issue Nomani has a point, and she produces some statistics and studies, although mired by her sweeping generalizations:

In a 2005 publication, “Women Friendly Mosques and Community Centers,” written by two American-Muslim groups — the Islamic Social Services Associations and Women In Islam — the authors confirmed that “many mosques relegate women to small, dingy, secluded, airless and segregated quarters with their children,” some mosques “actually prevent women from entering,”…

It is true that some mosques have less than adequate facilities to accommodate female worshippers, but is it always a case of sexism? If you haven’t noticed, opening or expanding a mosque is not the easiest thing to do in America right now. There are other factors involved other than an alleged omnipresent sexism dominating the Muslim community. Some of these mosques do not have the funding to give women a bigger space; and perhaps, it may be the conservative culture of a particular mosque for women to normally pray at home with their children, usually coming to the mosque only on special occasions, and thus a bigger space is unnecessary.

Nomani could draw from Islamic tradition to support her legitimate goal of helping women increase their presence and participation in the mosque. She could, for example, mention how numerous authentic traditions record that the Prophet Muhammad gave women universal support to go to the mosque:

Do not prevent the maid-servants of Allah from going to the mosque.

[Sahih Muslim, Book 004, Number 0886]

She could engage in a respectful dialogue with notable Imams, scholars and activists, work for grassroots change in her local community, and help establish the model mosque she seeks with their help or of her own volition. Unfortunately, Nomani thinks strong-arm bully tactics and shouting matches in the mosque are the way to go.

First, she travels to different communities to whom she does not belong and demands to violate their sacred spaces. Then, she makes a ruckus in the media to bring pressure on Muslim communities from society at large. That hasn’t worked, so now she wants the government to step in and tell Muslims how they should organize their prayer halls:

I understand the difficulties in having the state intervene in worship issues. I believe in a separation of church and state, but I’ve come to the difficult decision that women must use the legal system to restore rights in places of worship, particularly when intimidation is used to enforce unfair rules.

Unbelievable! One Christian author took the words right out of my mouth:

That is an almost comically irrational paragraph, and yet it ran in a column published in none other than USA Today. Nomani says that she “understand[s] the difficulties in having the state intervene in worship issues,” but shows no such understanding at all. Then, she writes that she “believe[s] in a separation of church and state,” but then she calls upon the coercive power of the state to force doctrinal change in places of worship. She cannot have it both ways…

I am not worried that IRS agents are about to descend on the nation’s churches, mosques, and synagogues to force a new government-endorsed theology on our places of worship. I am very concerned, however, that this kind of argument, left unaddressed, implies a power that the government does not and should not possess.

Undoubtedly what Nomani is asking for is prohibited by the U.S. Constitution’s, First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” She would open the floodgates of government intervention into the most private area of our lives, our places of worship, our sacred spaces, and threaten to raise our taxes if we didn’t worship in a manner consistent with her ideology (a curious double-violation of Tea Party ideology but nonetheless will probably receive a free pass from many on the Right because of the fact that Muslims are Nomani’s target).

She warns us that in mosques “intimidation is used to enforce unfair rules” but she has no problem using the long arm of the law to intimidate Muslims and force them to construct their prayer halls in line with Nomani’s ideology or else be crushed by burdening taxes.  So, Asra, how are you not also using intimidation “to enforce unfair rules?” Can anyone else see the double standard?

Don’t get me wrong. Freedom and women’s rights are very vital issues for Muslims to tackle, but not so much for Nomani. She seems far more interested in getting her uninformed and sensational views published than in helping the Muslim community from within.

How else can we understand her aggressive assault on our most basic American freedom?

Breaking: Herman Cain Is Suspicious of Muslims

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , on July 18, 2011 by loonwatch

Cain should have stuck to making pizzas.

Breaking: Herman Cain Is Suspicious of Muslims

(New York Magazine)

Does Herman Cain know what a mosque is?

Herman Cain, it’s probably safe to say, has already peaked. For reasons that remain unclear, hewowed Republicans in the primary season’s first debate but was quickly forgotten when Michele Bachmann wowed Republicans in the second debate. His national polling average of 10.2 percent in late June has gradually dropped over the past couple of weeks to 6.5 percent, according to Real Clear Politics. His numbers have steadily declined in polling of the Iowa caucus as well, and some of his staff in Iowa and New Hampshirerecently abandoned ship. But Herman Cain does still have one card up his sleeve: More than any other candidate, he’s willing to say heinous, bigoted things about Muslims.

Cain has said he wouldn’t appoint a Muslim to any position within his administration because of fears that Muslims are trying to “gradually ease Sharia law and the Muslim faith into our government.” He later softened his position slightly, allowing for the potential hiring of Muslims that pass some kind of loyalty test that only Muslims have to take. And now Cain is speaking out against the never-ending controversy over a proposed Islamic center and mosque in Murfreesboro, Tennessee:

“It is an infringement and an abuse of our freedom of religion,” he said. “And I don’t agree with what’s happening, because this isn’t an innocent mosque.” ….

“It is another example of why I believe in American laws and American courts,” Cain said. “This is just another way to try to gradually sneak Shariah law into our laws, and I absolutely object to that.”

You read that correctly: Letting Muslims practice their religion is an infringement on our freedom of religion. Let that argument sink in for a second. Or don’t. It’s actually uncomfortably farcical.

Combating Religious Intolerance When Freedom of Speech Enables Hate Speech

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , on July 7, 2011 by loonwatch

We have been discussing this topic for a while now. We also addressed, Pamela Geller’s hate rallycancellation.

What must be affirmed is that freedom of speech and freedom of religion are compatible, and neither will be sacrificed to the bigots.

Combating Religious Intolerance When Freedom of Speech Enables Hate Speech

(Huffington Post) by John L. Esposito and Sheila B. Lalwani

Religious pluralism, versus the defamation of religion and freedom of speech have become an increasing source of conflict in international politics and interreligious relations. Preachers of hate and activists in America, Europe, and many Muslim countries are engaged in a culture war. Far right anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim political leaders and parties warn of the Islamization of America and Europe to garner votes. The acquittal on June 22, 2011 of Dutch politician Geert Wilders on charges of “inciting hatred and discrimination against Muslims,” is a political victory for Wilders but also a sign of the times, growing normalization of anti-Islam bashing in the West.

The OIC (Organization of the Islamic Conference which represents some 57 countries) lobbied the United Nations for more than a decade to address this issue. Initially targeting Islamophobia, it broadened its request to a resolution on “defamation of religions” that would criminalize words and actions perceived as attacks against religion.

Opponents, in particular the U.S. and E.U., maintained that the resolution could also be used to restrict religious freedom and free speech, and foster religious intolerance and violence against religious minorities. Indeed, in recent years attacks against Christians and other religious minorities have risen in Egypt, Malaysia, Sudan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Pakistan. These conflicts have varied from acts of discrimination to the bombing and burning of churches and murder.

Pakistan’s blasphemy law exemplifies the issue. In 2009 Asia Bibi, a Christian and 45-year-old mother of four was sentenced to death on charges of insulting Islam, a charge she strongly denied. The case sparked international outrage that was heightened in 2011 by the brutal assassination of Salman Taseer — the governor of Punjab and an outspoken critic of the blasphemy law, and the assassination of Pakistani Chief Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian and outspoken opponent of Pakistan’s blasphemy law.

The United Nations Human Rights Council recently ostensibly resolved the conflict over “Defamation of Religions.” After close discussions with the U.S. and E.U., Pakistan introduced a compromise resolution on behalf of the OIC, which addressed the concerns of both the OIC and those of member states and human rights organizations, including the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

The “Combating Discrimination and Violence” compromise resolution affirms individual rights, including the freedoms of expression and religion that are part-and-parcel of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. At the same time, the 47-member state body also called for strengthened international efforts to foster a global dialogue and the promotion of a culture of human rights, tolerance and mutual respect.

But will this U.N. resolution prove to be an effective tool in combating the rise of Islamophobia? A clear sign of the limits of the resolution can be seen in the stunning verdict in Geert Wilder’s acquittal. Wilders’ track record includes the charges that “Islam is a fascist ideology,” “Mohammed was a pedophile,” and “Islam and freedom, Islam and democracy are not compatible” and warnings of a “tsunami” of Muslim immigrants. Wilders’ “missionary” efforts have extended other parts of Europe to the US where his admirers refer to him as a “freedom fighter.” Plaintiffs had charged that Mr Wilders’ comments had incited hatred and led to a rise in discrimination and violence against Muslims. But Judge van Oosten ruled that although he found Wilders remarks “gross and denigrating”, they had not given rise to hatred. Spiegel Online’s headline of the acquittal read “Wilder’s Acquittal a ‘Slap in the Face for Muslims.’”

The exploitation of freedom of speech to promote religious intolerance emerged only days after the Wilders’ decision. Stop Islamisation of Europe (SIOE) and Stop Islamization of America (SIOA), a coalition of far right anti-Muslim European and American groups billing themselves as human rights organizations, had scheduled “United We Stand: First Transatlantic Anti-Islamization” in Strasbourg, France on July 2. On June 28, French and EU authorities’ cancelled the conference. In response, the Islamophobic cottage industry and their websites’ headlines blared: “Free in speech rally cancelled in Strasbourg over Muslim violence threats” and “Democracy Collapses in Europe: EU Cancels SIOA/SIOE Free Speech Rally.”

Freedom of speech is a precious right that must be guarded carefully. But what happens when that right is used to incite hatred and to feed religious intolerance, such as Islamophobia, that is spreading like a cancer across the United States and Europe? While some statements may not immediately be the direct cause of a specific act of violence, they spread seeds of intolerance and anger that lead to legitimizing and accepting acts of bigotry and hate, like the “Burn a Quran day” that took place in Florida, the desecration of mosques, physical attacks against Muslims including women and children. As a result, the public slowly becomes inured to Islamophobic actions and statements. At the same time, this ideology of hatred has a very real effect on the everyday life of Muslims and Arabs: issuing in verbal attacks from their community members, Islamophobic statements by political candidates, or law-enforcement policies that target Muslims and Arabs.

The issue of freedom of speech and the rights of hate groups is not new in American history. Even today, the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazi and anti-Semitic organizations are allowed to express their disdain for certain ethnic and religious groups, regardless of how distasteful their ideologies may be. However, their power to attack has greatly diminished and their words have become a social taboo in the public square because our country has created a social environment where racism and anti-Semitism are loudly condemned and discredited in public life and in media. Muslim Americans and Europeans are entitled to the same treatment, rights and protections.

Islamophobia and its impact, like racism and anti-Semitism, must be countered by creating a climate in which hate speech and discrimination in the public square are not tolerated even when bigots exploit freedom of speech. Today, one can engage in anti-Islam and anti-Muslim hate speech and threats in print, media, and protest rallies that promote a popular culture that paints the religion of Islam, not just terrorists, as a threat to America. These preachers of hate and Islamophobia must be rejected and marginalized. Their mission to polarize our society must not be allowed to threaten our belief that religious tolerance and free speech are indeed compatible.

Pamela Geller and Co. Waging a War Against Common Sense

Posted in Feature, Loon Blogs with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 6, 2011 by loonwatch

Pamela Geller and her cronies are waging a personal war, and once again her line of target is the silent evil enemy: common sense.

Not content with spreading venom in the USA, Pam is now screaming that Europe has bowed to the shackles and chains of imperialist “Islamic supremacists,” after French and European authorities “cancelled” a Stop the Islamisation of America (SIOA) and Stop the Islamisation of Europe (SIOE)“freedom” rally, that aimed to protest outside the European Parliament, over “the Islamic takeover of Europe.”

As ridiculous as Pam’s event sounds I for one wouldn’t mind seeing Pam Geller and her friends make a fool of themselves, so was her rally really “cancelled?”

Yes, the European authorities seem to have annulled the Pam and co. rally, but is it in the context of “pro-Jihadism submission to Islamic Supremacism,” as the hate-mongers are claiming?

Let’s dissect the truth behind this “cancellation”:

Pam Geller’s Fascist Message and the Implications for Violence

Geller writes,

Democracy collapses in Europe: EU cancels SIOA/SIOE free speech rally — Freedom from jihad flotilla to launch on 9/11

STRASBOURG, FRANCE, June 28: In a capitulation to Islamic supremacists and violent radical Leftists, French and European Union authorities have canceled a free speech rally planned by a coalition of American and European human rights organizations in Strasbourg, the seat of the European Parliament. The human rights organizations Stop Islamization of America (SIOA) and Stop Islamisation of Europe (SIOE) were planning to hold their first-ever transatlantic summit in Strasbourg, France, on July 2.

The SIOA/SIOE summit was dedicated to the defense of the freedom of speech, the freedom of conscience, and the equality of rights of all people before the law – all principles denied by Islamic law.

The evidently responsible and comprehensible actions of the European and French authorities, who were prompted to cancel the potentially violent event, is now being used by Geller as proof of European and French authorities’ “support for Islamic terror and anti-Semitism.”

The authorities may have cancelled the event due to many factors. Firstly, an event justifying racism, fascism and bigotry towards a minority, Muslims in this case, is one big red flag! While some Americans may reflexively take exception to the cancellation of the rally on the grounds that it compromises “free speech,” here in Europe we take our practised laws of equality and freedom very seriously. Authorities have to balance “freedoms” and “rights” with the competing issues of “security,” “community harmony,” and defense against “hate speech” that incites violence, and so decisions to cancel rallies are taken very seriously.

Secondly, a main factor in the cancellation of the event seems to be the crowds that would flock and gather for the rally: neo-nazis, thugs, violent fringe groups, racists, and xenophobes masquerading as self-proclaimed ‘human rights’ activists. This event would have been a grave security threat to the people of Strasbourg, an event purely designed to deliberately provoke the liberals, Muslims and opposition groups and hence would be a breach of French and European law.

The Gellerists attempts in Europe give us pause, after all, Europe is home to one of the most inhuman crimes in history, the Holocaust, which was the result of propaganda, scapegoating and persecution. The rational expertise of the authorities recognised these signs, and sanctioned it in the appropriate manner. In this case, they have cancelled a palpable hate rally that had the potential to turn violent.

Human Rights and Muslim Takeover in the Bizzare-o World of Pamela Geller

The atypical, and apocryphal view of Geller’s interpretation on the meaning and definition of ‘human rights’ is comical. She calls for an international deployment to “defend the rights of man,” when she herself is partaking in an epic act of human oppression:

“The SIOA/SIOE Freedom From Jihad aid flotilla,” Geller explained, “is intended to be a direct response to the capitulation of French, European, and American authorities to Leftist and Islamic supremacist forces of oppression and injustice. It is set to launch after our national Rally for Freedom at Ground Zero on the tenth anniversary of the Islamic jihad attacks that murdered three thousand Americans.”

The “Freedom from Jihad aid flotilla,” is obviously a mock-term employed by Geller to demean theGaza Freedom Flotillas, which she derisively describes as “Jihad flotillas.” Geller dare not admit that Gaza has been and is in need of desperate aid due to the inhumane and oppressive blockade instituted by the Apartheid state of Israel because, well…you know, Israel is sugar and spice and everything nice!!

Let us analyze the facts here. It is estimated that 857 million people are citizens in Europe, and 58 million Muslims in Europe, 14 million of these numbers directly living under the European Union, including those who have converted to the religion of Islam. Where is the indication that Islam is in a takeover of Europe, when the numbers of non-Muslims to Muslims ratio is incomparable and far greater. This is a tool of hysteria and sensationalism on the part of Pam Geller, to insert misinformation to promote a repugnant agenda.

Another important point to note here is that Geller, on the mention of the tragedy of 9/11, conveniently makes no mention of the numerous Muslim victims that died on 9/11, who also were equally victims of such a heinous crime. The lack of acknowledgement of those Muslim deaths, only reiterates her pure uncompromising hatred of Muslims.

The SIOA Freedom From Jihad Flotilla will call upon the international community to act in defense of these basic human rights:
The freedom of speech – as opposed to Islamic prohibitions of “blasphemy” and “slander,” which are used effectively to quash honest discussion of jihad and Islamic supremacism;The freedom of conscience – as opposed to the Islamic death penalty for apostasy;The equality of rights of all people before the law – as opposed to Sharia’s institutionalized discrimination against women and non-Muslims. The Flotilla will call upon all free people of all races and creeds to stand with us to defend our freedoms against the radically intolerant ideology codified in Islamic law.

Geller wants to galvanize the globe to fight 12th century medieval law books that are not applied in the Muslim world, and are particularly irrelevant in light of the Arab Spring. Geller has a condensed and inept understanding of the term “Human Rights,” one which is limited in scope, and only applies to her circle of hate and dogmatism. According to her human rights apply to everyone –except Muslims. That is not human rights, it’s the selected persecution of a minority group, which in-turn presents this whole so called ‘freedom from jihad’ flotilla as nothing more than an opportunity to channel Islamophobic extremism from the right of the spectrum. There are no two ways about this issue.

Geller and co. have a very idiosyncratic strategy to illuminate the principles of ‘violence’ and ‘hatred’ in Islam. In order to combat and deplete the notion of Islamist extremism and hatred, the Gellerists have adopted the very same model of intolerance and prejudice, in order to stamp out the very elements they oppose. What a paradoxical stance, where two wrongs never will make a right. In what parallel universe would such an absurd theory make any sense? Only in the world of Pamela Geller.

Should Canada ban Islamic face veils?

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 11, 2011 by loonwatch

I hope more and more women protest for their freedom of religion. Has anyone thought that maybe it isn’t face veils that are oppressive but the laws themselves that try to restrain people from practicing their religious beliefs?

On the heels of the French ban it looks like Canada may follow suit.  The piece below unfortunately cites the Muslim Canadian Congress, an organization founded by the loon Tarek Fateh, which has near no credibility amongst Canadian Muslims.

Should Canada ban Islamic face veils?

by: Wency Leung

France’s ban on Islamic face veils came into force today, and already, at least two veiled women have reportedly been detained for protesting the new law.

The ban, which carries a fine of 150 euros ($207), has reignited the debate over where to draw the line between protecting a nation’s values and ensuring individuals’ freedom of expression.

Those supporting the ban say the veils oppress women and don’t fall in line with the country’s values of gender equality. Under France’s new law, anyone who forces women to wear a veil can face up to a year in prison and a fine 30,000 of euros.

But others, including some women who wear the veils themselves, believe the ban infringes on their freedom of religion and smacks of anti-Islamic sentiment.

In Canada, calls to introduce a similar ban have also prompted heated debate. For years, the Muslim Canadian Congress has urged for an end to the practice of wearing face-concealing niqabs and burkas, arguing the veils aren’t required under Islam, but are rather symbols of religious extremism and misogyny.

Canadian women who say they choose to wear the veils, however, argue that far from oppressing them, the face coverings guard their modesty.

Here, as in France, those who actually wear the veils are few.

Should Canada consider following France’s lead? Or would doing so put unfair restrictions on a minority?

GOP Presidential Candidate “Resents” Muslim-Americans

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , on March 25, 2011 by loonwatch

GOP Presidential Candidate Herman Cain says that he “resents” when Muslims try to convert other people to Islam. In an interview with Christianity Today, Cain said:

The role of Muslims in American society is for them to be allowed to practice their religion freely, which is part of our First Amendment. The role of Muslims in America is not to convert the rest of us to the Muslim religion. That I resent. Because we are a Judeo-Christian nation, from the fact that 85 percent of us are self-described Christians, or evangelicals, or practicing the Jewish faith. Eighty-five percent. One percent of the practicing religious believers in this country are Muslim.

And so I push back and reject them trying to convert the rest of us…

I find this hilariously ironic, because Mr. Cain is, himself, an associate minister at Antioch Baptist Church North in Atlanta. If you look on the front page of the Church’s website it says: “Fellowship.EVANGELISM. Doctrine. Stewardship.” [Emphasis mine].

What is the definition of evangelism?

The preaching or promulgation of the gospel;

In other words, trying to convert other people to the Christian faith. Indeed, that is one of the main missions of Evangelical Christianity. So, according to Mr. Cain, who is considering a run for the Presidency in 2012, Christians can try to convert other people, but Muslims need not apply. In fact, he will “push back and reject” any sort of Muslim evangelizing, because that is “not their role” in American society.

One would scratch their head in utter amazement at the hypocrisy of this man, but when one reads the interview, it is not surprising why he would have such a view. Mr. Cain himself admitted he had little knowledge about Islam, but it did not stop him from making sweeping judgments and stereotypes:

And based upon the little knowledge that I have of the Muslim religion, you know, they have an objective to convert all infidels or kill them.

Well, then, it makes sense that he would “resent” Muslim evangelism. In fact, it is patriotic of him to do so! Of course, Christians have never converted people under threat of death…(cough)…The Inquisition…(cough).

What’s more, he doesn’t even try to hide his bias against Muslims. He recounts his story battling cancer, and he said that when he found out his surgeon’s name was Dr. Abdallah (a presumptive Muslim), he was uncomfortable. When he was told, “Don’t worry, he’s a Christian,” Cain says, “he felt a whole lot better.” Wow.

Apparently, in the eyes of Herman Cain, all Americans are equal:

People use the race card, they use the class warfare card, to divide us. And the biggest challenge we face is for more and more people to be educated and not fall for those tricks and divide this nation. Do people still discriminate in some small ways against certain people because of their color or their religion? Yes. But it is nowhere near where it was 235 years ago.

It seems that Cain is trying to say that a little discrimination is OK.

When it comes to Muslims, some Americans are just more equal than others…

Addendum I:

If any Muslim candidate had said this about Jews, his career would be over faster than he could scarf down a halal beef-pretending-to-be-pepperoni pizza.  And rightfully so.  Yet, Cain says these statements with relative impunity.  Contrast this lack of reaction from the public to the hysteria that surrounded Alexandra Wallace, the UCLA girl who ranted against Asians in the library.  It’s strange that a random YouTube girl gets her academic career destroyed by such comments, whereas Cain’s political career is not over even though his comments were even more odious than hers…and even though he–unlike Ms. Wallace–never apologized for them.  He didn’t need to apologize because the public never demanded him to.  Truly, prejudice against Muslims and Arabs is the last socially acceptable form of bigotry in America.

Soldiers Forced to See Chaplain After Failing Army’s Spiritual Fitness Test

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 8, 2011 by loonwatch

(hat tip: Eric Allen Bell)

Soldiers Forced to See Chaplain After Failing Army’s Spiritual Fitness Test

(TalkToAction)

by Chris Rodda

After failing a recently implemented mandatory Army-wide “Spiritual Fitness” test, soldiers are given the following message on their computer screens:

“Spiritual fitness is an area of possible difficulty for you. You may lack a sense of meaning and purpose in your life. At times, it is hard for you to make sense of what is happening to you and others around you. You may not feel connected to something larger than yourself. You may question your beliefs, principles, and values. Nevertheless, who you are and what you do matter. There are things to do to provide more meaning and purpose in your life. Improving your spiritual fitness should be an important goal. Change is possible, and the relevant self-development training modules will be helpful. If you need further help, please do not hesitate to seek out help from the people you care about and trust — strong people always do. Be patient in your development as it will take time to improve in this area. Still, persistence is key and you will improve here if you make this area a priority.”

This mandatory online test, called the Global Assessment Tool (GAT), is part of the Army’s Comprehensive Soldier Fitness (CSF) program, a program that puts spiritual fitness on par with physical and mental fitness.

Upon flunking the “Spiritual Fitness” section of the GAT, and receiving the above message telling them that “Change is possible” and that “you will improve here if you make this area a priority,” the spiritually deficient soldiers are directed to training modules to correct this problem with their “fitness.”

Nothing at this point in the CSF program tells the soldiers that the online training modules that follow the GAT test are not mandatory, so the soldiers naturally assume that the training modules they’re immediately directed to upon failing the test are also mandatory.

Ever since complaints about the GAT, which can only be described as an unconstitutional “religious test,” began to surface a few weeks ago, the Army has been bending over backward insisting that that spirituality doesn’t mean religion; that nothing in the CSF’s “Spiritual Fitness” training is mandatory; and that no soldier is being forced to do anything whatsoever if they flunk the test. But these claims from the Army are far from what the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) is hearing from soldiers who have failed the Spiritual Fitness section of the test.

Just read the following account from one soldier about what happened to the GAT-identified spiritually unfit solders in his unit.

Subject: I Am A “Spiritual Fitness Failure” ……Before I tell you, Mr. Weinstein and the MRFF of my total outrage at the U.S. Army for grading me as a “Spiritual Fitness failure”, I will tell you a few things about myself. My name is (name withheld) and I am an enlisted soldier with the rank of (rank withheld) in the United States Army stationed at Ft. (military installation withheld). I am in my early-to-mid twenties. I have been deployed downrange into Iraq and Afghanistan 6 times. I will deploy again for my 7th time very soon; to Afghanistan and more combat. All of my deployments have been very heavy combat assignments. I have been wounded 4 times including traumatic brain injury. I have earned the Combat Action Badge, the Bronze Star and multiple Purple Hearts. I have fought in hand-to hand- combat and killed and wounded more than a few “enemy combatants.” M religion? I was born a Methodist and guess I still am one. I’m not very religious but consider myself to be a Christian. I don’t go to chapel services that often although I go every now and then. I can’t stand the chaplains as most of them are trying to always get me and my friends to “commit to Christ” and be far more religious as well as they try to get more and more soldiers to get more and more soldiers to be the same type of “committed Christian”. I cannot count the number of times that these chaplains and my own chain of command has described this war we fight as a religious one against the Muslims and their “false, evil and violent” religion. I am a Christian and therefore neither an agnostic nor an atheist though many of my fellow soldiers are such. Now to the point. I, and everyone else who is enlisted in my company, was ORDERED by my Battalion Commander to take the GAT’s Spiritual Fitness Test not very long ago. Let me make this CLEAR, we were all ORDERD to take it. After we did, our unit’s First Sgt. individually asked us all how we did on the test. There was NO “anonymity” at all. None of us were ever told that we did NOT have to take this Spiritual Fitness Test nor that we did NOT have to tell our FIrst Sgt. what our results were. A bunch of us “failed” the SFT and when we told that to our First Sgt., per his disclosure order, he further ordered us to make immediate appointments with the chaplains so that we would not “kill ourselves on his watch”. None of us wanted to do it but we were scared. None of us wanted to get in the shits with our First Sgt. who can and will make life miserable for anyone who might have said no to him. They keep saying that this is all to stop us soldiers from killing ourselves but THIS degrading SFT “failure” only makes it worse. Two of my battle buddies who I KNOW are thinking of ending it all were a million times worse off after failing this SFT and being called a “spiritual failure” and then ordered to go see the chaplains. I felt like a total coward for not standing up to my First Sgt. but I did what he told me to do. I was scared to tell him no. So I went to see the chaplain. When this chaplain told me that I failed the SFT because it was “Jesus’ way of personally knocking on my door as an invitation for me to come to Him as a born again ‘REAL’ Christian” so that I could be saved and not burn forever in Hell for rejecting him, I thought of 3 things. First, I thought of the fact that I was already born a Christian and did not need to be born again. Second, I thought of my battle buddy (name and rank withheld) who took a bullet for me in his face during the Battle of (name of Iraqi battle withheld) and that he was the same kind of Christian as me and this chaplain is telling me that my battle buddy (name and rank withheld) is burning in hell for all time. Third, I thought how I wanted to blow that fucking chaplain’s head right off. Thank you, Mr. Weinstein and MRFF for listening and standing up. A bunch of us saw you on MSNBC. We also read about the enlisted guy at Ft. Bragg. Please tell Sgt. Griffith at Fort Bragg that he speaks for many of us who can’t handle the consequences if we spoke out. We have all read the letter you sent to tell the Army to stop this Spiritual Fitness Test. It cheered us up alot because that making us take that test is WRONG and using it to send us to the chaplains against our will is also WRONG. Please tell your lawyers at that big law firm company not to forget about those of us who want to speak up and thank them all but cannot. (Name, rank, combat MOS, military unit, military installation withheld)

 

Imran Garda: Never-ending Cartoon Chaos

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 13, 2011 by loonwatch

A thought provoking piece about the cartoon debacle by AlJazeera’s Imran Garda.

Never-ending cartoon chaos

by Imran Garda (AlJazeera)

At a meal of halal pasta at a Johannesburg restaurant in 2004 , I found myself defending my one-time work colleague, Graeme Joffe, at a table of young Muslim men, after a joke he had made on a local radio station.

“Even if he thinks he’s funny, this was insulting to us, and the brothers are right to launch a complaint,” said one.

“They should fire him. Do you even know what he said? ‘What do you call a Bangladeshi cricketer with a bacon sandwich on his head? Ham’head. And if he has two bacon sandwiches? Mo’Ham’head!’ Disgusting!”

I tried to interject diplomatically, “I know Graeme, he’s one of the most polite, least offending, self-deprecating people you can meet. It’s a light-hearted radio show, come on. I worked with him at Supersport; if anything they should fire him because the joke was so bad!”

“Garda, you don’t understand”, insisted the most annoyed. “No matter how harmless the intention” and, with the surest of conviction, he continued: “When it comes to the prophet, there are no jokes.”

Joffe and the radio station were censured after South Africa’s Broadcasting Complaints Commission saw his joke as “hate speech” that violated the constitution. And yes, it has been no joke since late 2005, when 12 cartoons in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten seemed to ignite frenetic flames of fury that just wouldn’t die down.

The very depiction of Prophet Muhammad was an affront to Muslims, who do not depict him for fear of idolatry, among numerous other theological reasons. He has been depicted before, to the annoyance of many Muslims, but not much more. What seemed to tip the saga into the epicly dangerous territory that it has occupied since is that a substantial number of the images of him had sometimes tacit, sometimes overt references to Muhammad and misogyny, Muhammad and violence, Muhammad and terrorism.

Manufacturing anger?

But was that it? Was there merely an impulsive, collective rising up, a synergy of the insulted? Had the outcry been devoid of any larger outside forces prodding, pricking, planning – manufacturing anger?

The recent WikiLeaks revelations suggest otherwise. They show that the US charge d’affaires in Damascus, Stephen Seche, believed that Syria actively encouraged violent protests in which the Danish and Norwegian embassies were attacked. The leak reminded me of another meal in another African country, Egypt, in 2008.

“Mashallah, you’re from South Africa? I do a lot of work there; we are training 600 da’ees (Muslim missionaries) to approach fans during the World Cup in 2010.”

Imam Fadel Soliman paused for another spoonful of molokhiyya, an Egyptian soup dish. He was hungry – he had been fasting all day. We shared our Ramadhan iftaar before recording an Inside Story programme later that night, where he appeared as one of our guests.

A big, friendly man, who seemed permanently out of breath, with an engaging presence, Imam Fadel was bursting with a faith he was keen to share; he later dished out DVDs on Islamic guidance to our film crew and producers, in multiple languages to boot. He was like an ambassador for Islam, but it was what he told me about another ambassador which was of infinite interest to me:

“Do you know our Egyptian ambassador to South Africa, Mona Attiah?” he asked as he wolfed down some more Iftaar.

“I can’t say I do.”

“Mashallah, she’s a good sister, has done a lot for Muslims. She doesn’t wear hijab, but she’s a good woman.”

He continued.

“Are you sure you don’t know her?”

“I’m sorry”, I said. I wasn’t sure whether it was my South African or Islamic credentials which were beginning to wane in his eyes.

“She was in Denmark before South Africa. She was the ONE ambassador who really stood up to the Danish government, and insisted on a meeting with them over those cartoons about our prophet sallalahu alayhi wasallam (peace be upon him). And when they said they didn’t want to meet and can’t stop ‘freedom of expression’, she stood firm! She was the one who got the other ambassadors on board to go the Arab League in Cairo together to show our united condemnation, that the cartoons were unacceptable! Mashallah.”

It was what he said next that I’ll never forget:

“If it wasn’t for her, we may never even have heard of those cartoons.”

Two Danish imams carried the cartoon “dossier” throughout the Middle East with some extra cartoons thrown into the mix – images that were never published in Jyllands-Posten. One wasn’t even a cartoon, but a photocopied photograph of a picture lifted off the internet of a man wearing a pig-snout.

Ever since the outbreak of the crisis, it has been noted that many usually undemocratic governments, often brutal in their suppression of mass protests which call for political reform, or rally against the price of bread – suddenly wholeheartedly embraced (and maybe even sponsored) the protest fever.

CCTV footage from the building that housed the Danish embassy in Beirut shown in Karsten Kjaer’s film Bloody Cartoons even suggests that the Lebanese army allowed protesters to converge on the building, Molotov cocktails in hand.

Does it come then as any surprise that years later, with over a hundred dead since the first spasm of violence, three men have recently been charged with plotting to mow down the staff of Jyllands-Posten with machine guns?

In early 2006 even mainstream scholars, like Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, hated by many hardliners for his liberal and forward-thinking opinions on issues of Islamic jurisprudence, called for a “day of anger” around the Muslim world in response to the cartoons. He said Muslims are not “donkeys to be ridden on” but “lions that roar”.

In context, seen along with his and other scholars’ calls for an economic boycott of Denmark and strong political lobbying against the country and the newspapers that published the cartoons, many would interpret his call to “roar” metaphorically. As a call for a stern but peaceful response against a provocation from Jyllands-Posten that smacks of goading, demeaning and ostracising Muslims.

But (and it’s a big but) an obvious, glaring problem is with the rise of the far-right in Europe, where issues of Muslims veils and minarets, anti-immigration and integration dominate the discourse: will every offended Muslim interpret the call that way? Much of the post-cartoon rhetoric left ample room for subjective interpretation. Are we not seeing the fallout continuing to unfold before our eyes?

Freedom of Expression

“Freedom of Expression” – it has a post-modern, sacrosanct, warm-fuzziness about it. But are those who claim it entirely consistent?

The editor responsible for the cartoons, Flemming Rose, pledged to Christiane Amanpour in an interview that Jyllands-Postenwas attempting to make contact with the Iranian newspaper that ran cartoons about the Holocaust, and hoped to publish them too. He reneged on his promise, and was put on a short “leave of absence” by the paper.

At the time, cat-eyed Anders Fogh Rasmussen was the Danish prime minister. His devotion to “Freedom of Expression” and “Freedom of the Press” in his country was indisputable and was tested from multiple corners, diplomatic and otherwise.

He cannot have been too impressed when he went from being the head of a friendly, isolated Scandinavian country to seeing effigies of himself burnt on the streets of Pakistan.

But now, as the secretary-general of NATO, the most powerful fighting force history has ever known, RSF (Reporters Without Borders) claims his NATO forces in Afghanistan have treated “journalists working in difficult provinces … like dangerous criminals”.

Afghan journalists, like Al Jazeera cameraman Mohammed Nader, have found themselves arrested and later released without charge, on suspicion of having links with the “enemy” because of alleged links to the Taliban and their spokespersons.

This dovetails with an Afghan government order in March 2010 banning all coverage of “insurgent attacks” in the country with the threat of prosecution of any journalist who does – an ominous message to journalists there.

Is the dedication of men like Flemming Rose and Anders Fogh Rasmussen to “Freedom of Expression” relative to an ideological worldview? Are they dedicated to a complete freedom of expression only of the “good guys” – but heaven forbid you let the “bad guys” express themselves.

As Noam Chomsky put it – “If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.”

Blame

Who’s to blame? Jyllands-Posten? The Danish government? Global Islamophobia and its racist defenders or global Islamism and its idealogues? Or the governments who may have actively encouraged their citizens to get angry?

In the five-year long cartoon crisis, anger ebbs and flows, condemnation bursts and retreats and worldviews collide. Art meets politics, satire meets the sacred, and provocation cries crocodile tears when it meets a response it claims it never expected.

Maybe, just maybe, the seemingly never-ending cartoon chaos was epitomised by the guy who held up the banner at the cartoon protest rally in London, saying “Freedom of Expression Go To Hell!”

 

U.S. Monitoring 11 Sites for Possible Discrimination Against Muslims

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , on September 23, 2010 by loonwatch

(via. Reuters)

U.S. monitoring 11 sites for possible discrimination against Muslims

The U.S. Justice Department has said it is monitoring 11 cases of potential land-use discrimination against Muslims, a sharp increase in cases under a federal law designed to protect religious minorities in zoning disputes.

In a report on discrimination against mosques, synagogues, churches and other religious sites, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said on Tuesday it has monitored 18 cases of possible bias against Muslims over the past 10 years.

Eight of those have been opened since May, around the time when plans for a Muslim community center and mosque near the former site of the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan seized media attention and caused a national political uproar. “This fact is a sober reminder that, even in the 21st century, challenges to true religious liberty remain,” the report said.

The report made no mention of the planned Muslim center in New York, known as Cordoba House. A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to discuss monitoring activities but stressed that no investigations were under way in those cases.

 

Spencer and the Qur’an: Book Burning bad but Book Banning Good

Posted in Feature, Loon Blogs, Loon Sites with tags , , , , , , , , on September 9, 2010 by loonwatch

Robert Spencer has a Geert Wilders problem. He is an unabashed supporter of Wilders, citing him as the champion of Western civilization, the only one willing to stand up for our freedoms in the face of the Muslim menace and an individual we should all be supporting.

[I] support Wilders. And so should anyone who holds dear the Western values that are threatened by Islamic supremacists — notably, as I said above, the freedom of speech, the freedom of conscience, the equality of rights of all people before the law.

But apparently not Freedom of Religion.

Recently Spencer has commented on the Burn a Koran day festivities saying,

I oppose the Qur’an-burning. I don’t like the burning of books…However, these people are free to do what they want to do.

Isn’t Spencer so merciful? Thank you for opposing the burning of books, what a courageous stand for a defender of the West!

But wait Spencer, you oppose burning books but your buddy Geert Wilders has called for the Quran to be banned in the Netherlands.

The Koran must be banned

Pretty unequivocal statement right there. No ifs, ands or buts just plain banning. So when are you going to take a courageous stand and defend Freedom of Speech and Religion by calling your buddy Wilders out for his Nazi like fascistic statement to ban the Quran?

 

Some Want Loonwatch to Be Silenced

Posted in Feature with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 23, 2010 by loonwatch

Loonwatch is obviously being attacked by rogue hackers who want to silence the anti-hate, pro-freedom voice. The hackers present themselves as Arabs from Egypt or Morroco, but an investigation into their IP’s casts doubt on where the attacks are really originating.

We have seen in the time since we started publishing online that those who proclaim to be “freedom lovers”, standing up for “freedom of speech” and “Western civilization” have turned out to be the biggest hypocrites.

This is exposed by their malicious attack on our site. They do not wish to play by the rules of the game, sincere and factual criticism backed up by a plethora of evidence scares the “beejezus” out of them and so they resort to dirty tactics such as these.

Is it surprising that they chose to attack us on our highest traffic day? Someone out there wants Loonwatch to be silenced.

 

The Untold Story Behind the “Mosque at Ground Zero”

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 20, 2010 by loonwatch

A powerful piece by Ahmed Rehab in the Huffington Post laying the bottom line about the swelling controversy surrounding the “mosque at Ground Zero.”  (hat tip: Schmorgus)

The Untold Story of the Mosque at Ground Zero

by Ahmed Rehab | Huffington Post

Americans have a right to assemble and worship freely in this country, period. It’s not only a founding principle of this nation, but a main justification for its founding. It is why many White Christians flooded to this country in the first place.

Those opposed to American Muslims practicing their right to build a religious and cultural center on their private property near Ground Zero and in concordance with all laws and regulations reluctantly concede that they have no legal grounds to challenge it. So they argue instead that they should voluntarily forgo their right out of sensitivity for the sacredness of that site.

2010-08-20-nomosquesign.jpgThis is a particularly disingenuous line.

If it is about sensitivity for the sacred, then why aren’t those same people opposing the deli, bar, coffee shop, and offices, or strip club for that matter, that are open for business in that same sacred vicinity?

What is particularly indecent or insensitive about American Muslims building a house of peace, community, and worship that doesn’t apply to the New York Dolls gentlemen’s club?

Let’s be blunt: it is only indecent and insensitive if you buy into the canard that American Muslims are somehow collectively guilty for 9/11. That is the coded message at the heart of opposition to the center. It is a message we reject on its face.

American Muslims bear no collective guilt or blame for the crime of 9/11. We have nothing to apologize for and everything to be proud of, including our loyalty and hard-earned livelihoods. We are not guest citizens, we are not second-rate citizens; we reject marginalization and require no validation. We are equal citizens living and worshipping in our country.

We are part and parcel of the diversity of America including the diversity of the 3,000 people who died on 9/11. We are part of the diversity of the hundreds who were injured and those who were first responders to Ground Zero. We are part of the diversity of the millions who grieved and still grieve. When “they” attacked “us,” we were attacked. We are part of the “us” not the “they.”

The whole brouhaha about the “Mosque at Ground Zero” is frankly bogus. It has little to do with sacred ground, or sensitive hearts. It does however have everything to do with the exploitation of the sacred and the sensitive for the furtherance of the sacrilegious and the insensitive: the phenomenon of Muslim-bashing that is ravaging our nation today.

The Cordoba House, now Park51, is an old story. In fact, it was reported on in the New York Times and other mainstream media as far back as two years ago. Why the frenzy now?

That’s not all: Muslims have been worshipping at Mosque Manhattan a few blocks away from Ground Zero, long before Ground Zero was Ground Zero; in fact, since 1970, before the twin towers were the twin towers.

So again, why the sudden frenzy?

Failure to ask “why” is a collective indictment of the media establishment (with a fewnotable exceptions). Just as the media shirked its responsibilities in questioning the Bush administration on the justifications for the war in Iraq, now too it fails to properly investigate, scrutinize, and report the origins of this controversy. Here is what it failed to tell you:

2010-08-20-spencer_geller.pngThe”Ground Zero Mosque” fiasco is a fabricated controversy that traces its origins to a couple of long-time anti-Muslim goons from the annals of the hate blogosphere by the names ofRobert Spencer and Pamela Geller as a flagship campaign of their newly founded organization,Stop the Islamization of America(SIOA). SIOA is part of an emerging phenomenon ofastroturf anti-Muslim organizations that seek to project any public expression of Muslim life in this country as tantamount to a stealth “Islamization of America.” (Except it’s not so stealth since everyone and their mother is talking about it).

It was SIOA that first coined the misnomer “Mosque at Ground Zero,” purposely twisting the reality that the proposed Muslim cultural center near Ground Zero is neither a Mosque nor at Ground Zero. It was the SIOA that sought to redefine Imam Rauf as a radical Imam even though he was heralded by the Bush administration, the FBI and others as a moderate voice of reason. It was the SIOA and its partners that ruthlessly sought to stoke the fears and suspicions of otherwise good, unsuspecting Americans.

The fact that bigots see fit to peddle sensational drivel for a living is not shocking.

The fact that the media is unwilling or incapable of calling it out is disturbing.

The fact that a significant segment of this population stands to be duped by it is disappointing.

And the fact that public officials who should know better are all too content pandering to the bigoted, misguided, and confused in search of votes this election season is outright nauseating.

Here’s another under reported fact:

The battle raging on now is not one that pits Muslims on one side and non-Muslims on the other as critics would have you believe. It is in fact a showdown between Americans of all backgrounds (Muslim and otherwise) who are fighting for the freedom and dignity of what it means to be American, on one side; and those who are willing to throw those values under the bus in exchange for publicity, notoriety, ratings, or votes, on the other.

It is a struggle between those wishing to affirm our pluralism and our equality as color-blind, race-blind, and faith-blind citizens and those wishing to immerse us into identity politics that make some more equal than others.

The Park51 battle is a microcosm of this generation’s struggle for the soul of America.

That’s the untold “Mosque at Ground Zero” story any red-blooded American journalist who still has respect for the integrity of the profession should be telling.

 

Barack Obama in Freedom of Religion Speech: Muslims Have a Right to Build in NYC

Posted in Anti-Loons, Feature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on August 14, 2010 by loonwatch

Barack Obama commented on the Cordoba Center that will be near Ground Zero, reaffirming freedom of religion as an essential American value.

Islamophobes were furious about this. For many of them this probably confirmed their belief that Obama is a Muslim.

Robert Spencer was on record writing,

Obama is in effect saying that you can build a triumphal mosque marking Islam’s superiority and victory — which is how the Ground Zero mosque will be viewed in the Islamic world — and you can lie about your funding, and lie about your commitment to interreligious dialogue and harmony, and refuse to denounce jihad terrorists, and all that is just fine with him.

Pamela Geller had this to say through an SIOA news release,

Obama “has, in effect, sided with the Islamic jihadists and told the ummah (at an Iftar dinner on the third night of Ramadan) that he believes in and supports what will be understood in the Islamic world as a triumphal mosque on a site of Islamic conquest.”

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vvFUakL-bqw 350 300]

Obama throws support behind controversial Islamic Center

Washington (CNN) — President Obama threw his support behind a controversial proposal to build an Islamic center and mosque near New York’s ground zero, saying Friday that “Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country.”

“That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances,” Obama said at a White House Iftar dinner celebrating the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

The president’s remarks drew praise from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who announced his support for the Islamic center last week.

Bloomberg compared Obama’s speech to a letter President George Washington wrote in support of a Jewish congregation in Newport, Rhode Island. “President Obama’s words tonight evoked President Washington’s own august reminder that ‘all possess alike liberty,’ ” Bloomberg said in a statement.

“I applaud President Obama’s clarion defense of the freedom of religion tonight,” he said.

To learn more about the “ground zero” mosque, see CNN’s Belief Blog

Critics of the proposed Islamic center quickly denounced Obama’s remarks. “President Obama is wrong,” said Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.). “It is insensitive and uncaring for the Muslim community to build a mosque in the shadow of Ground Zero. Unfortunately, the President caved into political correctness.”

“While the Muslim community has the right to build the mosque, they are abusing that right by needlessly offending so many people who have suffered so much,” King said in a statement. “The right and moral thing for President Obama to have done was to urge Muslim leaders to respect the families of those who died and move their mosque away from Ground Zero.”

What do you think about this issue? Tell us on video

Obama, who said he was speaking both as a citizen and as president, invoked the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, which critics of the Islamic center cite as the main reason for preventing its construction.

“We must all recognize and respect the sensitivities surrounding the development of lower Manhattan,” Obama said, according to his prepared remarks. “The 9/11 attacks were a deeply traumatic event for our country.”

“The pain and suffering experienced by those who lost loved ones is unimaginable,” he continued. “So I understand the emotions that this issue engenders. Ground zero is, indeed, hallowed ground.”

 

But Obama said one “reason that we will win this fight” against terrorism is “our capacity to show not merely tolerance, but respect to those who are different from us — a way of life that stands in stark contrast to the nihilism of those who attacked us on that September morning, and who continue to plot against us today.”

Repeatedly invoking the nation’s founders and examples of religious tolerance from American history, the president argued that national ideals and the Constitution demanded that the project proceed.

He noted that Thomas Jefferson hosted the the first Iftar dinner at the White House more than 200 years ago and said that the country had previously seen “controversies about the construction of synagogues or Catholic churches.”

“But time and again,” he said, “the American people have demonstrated that we can work through these issues.”

“This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable,” Obama said. “The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country, and will not be treated differently by their government, is essential to who we are. The writ of our Founders must endure.”

The proposed Islamic center has provoked vocal opposition from some families of 9/11 victims and other groups. Nearly 70 percent of Americans oppose the plan, according to CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll released Wednesday.

“Obama came out for the Islamic supremacist mosque at the hallowed ground of 911 attack,” Pamela Geller, a leading foe of the Islamic center, wrote on her blog Friday night. “He has, in effect, sided with the Islamic jihadists.”

Muslim Americans, meanwhile, applauded the speech. “It was pitch perfect and it was cut and dry,” said Eboo Patel, executive director of the Interfaith Youth Core and a Muslim adviser to the White House on faith issues. “He said that our Founding Fathers built a nation on religious freedom where people from different faiths can pray and thrive and that is that.”

Some Muslims said they were surprised to hear the president weigh in on the controversy.

“It’s such a hot potato and he’s already got so much on his plate and people jumping on him for any hint of an Islamic connection,” said Akbar Ahmed, an American University professor who attended Friday’s White House dinner. “But he plunged in and took a very bold position.”

The Islamic center’s leaders say they plan to build the $100 million, 13-story facility called Cordoba House three blocks from the site of the 9/11 attacks. The developer, Sharif El-Gamal, describes the project as an “Islamic community center” that will include a 500-seat performing arts center, a lecture hall, a swimming pool, a gym, a culinary school, a restaurant and a prayer space for Muslims.

On Wednesday, the project’s developers declined an offer by New York Gov. David Paterson to relocate the project to a state-owned site.

Earlier this month, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission unanimously denied landmark status for the building where the proposed Islamic center would stand, allowing the project to move forward.

 

Islamophobia is on the Rise, Exhibit B: Bryan Fischer

Posted in Feature, Loon Pastors with tags , , , , , , , on August 13, 2010 by loonwatch

Even those who used to debate whether Islamophobia exits or not probably have no leg to stand on, as it is evident with all the rhetoric and flashpoints across America, Islamophobia is on the rise.

Bryan Fischer a leader in the conservative American Family Association echoes Euro-supremacist Geert Wilders statements that Islam isn’t a religion. This line of attack is becoming more and more common.

Conservative activist calls for nationwide mosque moratorium

by John Cook

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dauhe5be7Rc&feature=player_embedded 350 300]

One of the leaders of the conservative American Family Association has taken the debate over the Cordoba Mosque in lower Manhattan to a new level. Bryan Fischer, the group’s director of issue analysis, is calling on his blog and radio show for a nationwide moratorium on the construction of any mosque, anywhere. “Permits should not be granted to build even one more mosque in the United States of America, let alone the monstrosity planned for Ground Zero,” Fischer wrote on Tuesday. “This is for one simple reason: each Islamic mosque is dedicated to the overthrow of the American government.”

That’s an odd position for an ostensibly religious organization to have. But it’s especially odd because the American Family Association filed a federal lawsuit in 2003 accusing a county government in Georgia of violating federal law and the Constitution for refusing to grant a permit to build a church.

As we’ve mentioned previously, many of the groups who have endorsed the idea of using preservation laws to block the construction of the mosque have previously argued precisely the opposite when the imperiled project was a church. Indeed, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA) explicitly bars local governments from “implement[ing] a land use regulation in a manner that imposes a substantial burden on the religious exercise of … a religious assembly or institution,” unless there’s a compelling government interest in doing so. Many of the groups that have come out against the mosque — and in favor of stopping it with land-use laws — have filed federal lawsuits under the act.

You can add the American Family Association to their number. In 2003, the AFA helped the Victory Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church in Henry County, Ga., file a federal lawsuit accusing the county of violating RLUIPA, as well as Victory’s constitutional rights to free exercise of religion, due process, and equal protection under the laws, for refusing to grant a building permit for a new church. The group prevailed, and celebrated the win in the AFA newsletter.

Now the AFA appears to be advocating the express violation of the very law that allowed for that victory, under the theory that mosques don’t count. A call to the AFA to clear up the inconsistency was not immediately returned.

UPDATE: Fischer returned our phone call. Turns out we weren’t too far off: Mosques don’t count! “I’m not a lawyer,” he told The Upshot, “but I have a layman’s understanding of the RLUIPA. And there’s a key difference between that case and mosques: Islam is not just a religion. It’s a subversive ideology. And as a subversive ideology, they can’t seek protection under the First Amendment.” Since Islam is really a political movement that advocates the imposition of sharia, he said, it doesn’t deserve the same sort of protections that the Victory Tabernacle Missionary Church gets. By the way: One of the bad things about sharia, according to Fischer, is “there is no such thing as religious liberty.” Sounds awful.

Fischer went on to say that “the First Amendment was designed to provide religious liberty for the Christian faith,” but that he is happy to let other religions enjoy its protections so long as they’re not “subversive.” Asked to identify any other subversive religions aside from Islam as a point of comparison, he came up empty. Not even Satanism? “Not that I’m aware of,” he said.

Finally, we asked Fischer why, if Islam is so dangerous, he’s stopping at a moratorium on new mosques. Why not shut down the ones that already exist? “We need to take things one step at a time here,” he said. “We need to turn off the hose first, and then we can figure out how to clean up the mess.”

Fischer said he was speaking as a talk-radio host (he hosts a show on the American Family Radio network),  and not as a representative of the AFA, which “hasn’t taken a position on the building of mosques.”

 

Jon Stewart Takes on Ground Zero Mosque Protesters

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , on August 11, 2010 by loonwatch

Hilarious Jon Stewart once again, this time taking on the growing anti-Muslim sentiment across the nation.

Tennessee: Murfreesboro Mosque the Target of Backlash

Posted in Feature, Loon Pastors, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , on July 15, 2010 by loonwatch

The proposed Murfreesboro Mosque has become a lightening rod political/legal/social issue in Tennessee. See the courageous supporters of the Mosque who are defending Freedom of Religion versus those who oppose the Mosque on grounds that seem less than sincere.

Also what do Israeli flags have to do with a Mosque in Tennessee? Looks like Christian Zionists acting wacky as usual.

http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9/51164702001?isVid=1

Mosque leads to Square off

BY SCOTT BRODEN

SBRODEN@DNJ.COM

Anti-mosque marchers proudly paraded their opposition for a mile along East Main Street to the Public Square on Murfreesboro Wednesday.

They carried flags of America and Israel, sang, “God Bless America,” and carried many signs, including: “Mosque leaders support killing converts. Tell it!”

While the crowd from both protesters and counter protesters appeared to number 500 to 600 at its peak — police estimated the crowd at 1,000, protest march organizer Kevin Fisher estimated that several hundred marched in his group alone from Central Magnet School to the County Courthouse.

There, they encountered hundreds more of counter protesters carrying signs with messages such as, “All you need is love” and “Freedom for all religion” and “Tolerance.”

“Ignore their hate,” Fisher told his participants as they turned the east corner of the Square on their way to the west side of the County Courthouse.

His grass-roots group plans to next present to the County Commission on Aug. 12 a petition in opposition to the county Regional Planning Commission’s site plan approval last May for a 52,960-square-foot community center and mosque for the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro to build on Veals Road off Bradyville Pike southeast of the city.

“We have close to 20,000 petition signers,” Fisher said. “We gathered at least 700 (Wednesday).”

Fisher was one of about 20 speakers to carry his message to the commission last June. Hundreds packed all three floors of the Courthouse for that event.

On Wednesday, two protest groups almost seemed like rival student bodies chanting back and forth about who had the better team.

The marchers attempted to give speeches on the Courthouse steps, but the words offered by 82-year-old Gertrude Phillips and others were drowned out by the counter protesters.

In response, the marchers chanted, “U.S.A.!, U.S.A.!, U.S.A.!”

and “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus” and sang, “Amazing Grace” and “The Star Spangled Banner.”

“When you are yelling during a prayer or when you are yelling when an 82-year-old woman speaks, you are being disrespectful,” Fisher said in an interview after the speeches were over.

March participant Jake Robinson was also offended by the counter protesters.

“They are a bunch of rabble-rousers,” said Robinson, a candidate in the Aug. 5 election running against County Commissioner Will Jordan, who’s also on the Regional Planning Commission. “They were bused in. They’re a rent-a-mob. As (U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy) Pelosi would say, they are Astroturf of the highest order.”

Although Phillips’ words to the mosque opponents were hard to hear, the La Vergne resident was glad to share why she was willing to push her walker for a portion of the march around the Square.

She’s concerned about Muslims not adhering to burial practices in America in particular.

“My husband is buried in a casket in the state of Kentucky,” said Phillips, adding that she’ll be buried by him in the same way. “If they come over here, they need to do our ways and abide by our law. If they can’t, go back to where they came from. God gave us America. We need to uphold America.”

The marchers included other people seeking public office, such as congressional candidates George Erdel, who calls himself ‘a tea party Democrat’, and Lou Ann Zelenik, a Republican. Many Zelenik supporters proudly displayed signs and T-shirts with her name on it.

Erdel also helped organize the march, using a bullhorn to give instructions before the parade began. He also handed the bullhorn to Dusty Ray, the pastor of Heartland Baptist Church at Walter Hill where Erdel attends.

Ray led the large group gathered on the Central Magnet School grounds in prayer about their march in opposition to the plans of local Muslims.

“They are about oppression,” Ray said in his prayer.

“Lord, we’re trying to stop a political movement,” Ray added before concluding his prayer, “In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

Others of note in the march included Howard Wall, a local real estate developer and Republican Party supporter; and Dave Beardsley, a candidate challenging County Commissioner Gary Farley, who’s also a member of the Regional Planning Commission.

Beardsley carried a sign near the front of the march: “Commissioner Farley votes yes on Islamic Center.”

Farley in a recent interview said his vote was based on the center meeting all of the rules required by the county’s zoning resolution.

When the march and counter protesters were winding down and mostly left, two Muslim women in hijab outfits to cover their hair and bodies appeared before unfriendly mosque opponents.

Dressed in a black outfit, Tahira Ahmed told the protesters she’s an American of Cherokee and other Indian heritage whose family chose to convert to Islam.

“I have a right to wear a bikini, and I have a right to cover myself,” Ahmed told the crowd.

An obese man wearing tattered blue shorts and a brown T-shirt that expressed his love of barbecue challenged the Muslim women from where he stood about 15 feet away.

“Our Constitution doesn’t apply to you,” the man said.

Qamar Awale, who was wearing a blue hijab, disagreed.

“I have a right to live here,” she said. “And I have a right to worship, and I have a right to build.”

Prior to speaking before the marchers, the women said they came here from their Nashville homes with a goal to communicate with others about being Muslims rather than to have people influenced by propaganda expressed to the news media.

“We’re advocating for communication between neighbors,” said Ahmed, who’d like to see the proposed mosque built. “That’s what religious freedom is. We should respect each other’s rights in this country, and we should respect the rules of America. America doesn’t say if you’re a Muslim you can’t live here and worship.”

Awale agreed.

“If you live here, you have rights to worship anywhere,” she said. “We have right to worship. Freedom is supposed to be like a butterfly.”

 

USA Today: Niqab ban is a bad move

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , on May 28, 2010 by loonwatch

Here is a nice article from USA Today:

Our view on religious attire: Europe’s moves to ban veils hand ammo to extremists

.
From the realm of truly terrible ideas comes this: Parts of Europe suddenly seem enthralled with banning the burqa and niqab, Islamic attire that hides the face.

French President Nicholas Sarkozy has pushed the idea for months. He wants to create a new crime, “inciting to hide the face” in public, punishable by a fine of $185. Next door in Belgium, similar legislation has passed one house of Parliament. Bans are under discussion, with uncertain outcome, in Switzerland and the Netherlands as well. In another measure of growing European angst about Islam, Switzerland has banned the construction of minarets, the prayer towers on mosques.

.
But France, home to a third of Europe’s Muslims, is the epicenter of the debate, and the current proposal is the second round in a longer fight. France banned Muslim head scarves in schools and government offices in 2004. The new plan goes further, applying not just to public facilities or security checkpoints (which would make sense) but to all public places.

Sarkozy and others justify this on the grounds that face-covering veils are a symbol of the oppression of women, an expression of radicalism and, most important, an offense to France’s rigidly secular state. There is some truth to all of this. For reasons deeply rooted in French history, France officially treats religion as something to be practiced in private but muffled in public, and the nation is obsessive about protecting a homogenous culture. The concept is so alien to freewheeling U.S. ways that Americans might be tempted to see the entire debate as just another French anomaly, akin to its worries about the cultural impact of Disney or McDonald’s.

But religion isn’t a Big Mac, and the spreading bans are a marker of desperation as Europe struggles to deal with its large and estranged Muslim communities. The continent is home to more than five times as many Muslims as the United States, and its nations lack America’s knack for assimilating immigrants. Muslims live mostly among themselves as an economic underclass. Many of the young are underemployed, restless and resentful. Zacarius Moussaoui, the 9/11 conspirator, sprang from such roots. So did Mohammed Bouyeri, the Dutch Muslim who murdered filmmakerTheo van Gogh.

Surely, banning any peaceful Muslim religious practice is a needless affront that hands ammunition to radical mullahs who recruit others for similar missions by claiming that there is a Western “war on Islam.”

It is not as if the streets of Paris are teeming with burqa-clad women. The French Interior Ministry estimates that only 1,900 women in the entire country (population: 65 million) wear veils that fully hide the face. In Belgium, it’s a few hundred.

This is a threat?

As for Sarkozy’s claim that the burqas and niqabs oppress women, he is partly right. Men sometimes force them on their wives and daughters. Burqas, particularly, are controversial even in the Muslim world. But there are also plenty of women who wear them by choice.

There’s little the U.S. can do about any of this, even by persuasion. The cultural gap is too vast, and France has no First Amendment guaranteeing individual freedom. All the same, common sense suggests that telling women what they can wear is not only unjust. It seems certain to backfire.

 

Update: Swiss Voters Ban Minarets

Posted in Feature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 29, 2009 by loonwatch

svp-anti-minaret-poster

So much for Democracy and Freedom of Religious expression.

Swiss voters have supported a referendum proposal to ban the building of minarets, official results show.

More than 57% of voters and 22 out of 26 cantons – or provinces – voted in favour of the ban.

The proposal had been put forward by the Swiss People’s Party, (SVP), the largest party in parliament, which says minarets are a sign of Islamisation.

The government opposed the ban, saying it would harm Switzerland’s image, particularly in the Muslim world.

The BBC’s Imogen Foulkes, in Bern, says the surprise result is very bad news for the Swiss government which also fears unrest among the Muslim community.

Our correspondent says voters worried about rising immigration – and with it the rise of Islam – have ignored the government’s advice.

“The Federal Council (government) respects this decision. Consequently the construction of new minarets in Switzerland is no longer permitted,” said the government in a statement, quoted by the AFP news agency.

Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf said the result reflected fear of Islamic fundamentalism.

“These concerns have to be taken seriously. However, the Federal Council takes the view that a ban on the construction of new minarets is not a feasible means of countering extremist tendencies,” she said.

She sought to reassure Swiss Muslims, saying the decision was “not a rejection of the Muslim community, religion or culture”.

Switzerland is home to some 400,000 Muslims and has just four minarets.

After Christianity, Islam is the most widespread religion in Switzerland, but it remains relatively hidden.

There are unofficial Muslim prayer rooms, and planning applications for new minarets are almost always refused.

Supporters of a ban claimed that allowing minarets would represent the growth of an ideology and a legal system – Sharia law – which are incompatible with Swiss democracy.

But others say the referendum campaign incited hatred. On Thursday the Geneva mosque was vandalised for the third time during the campaign, according to local media.

Before the vote, Amnesty International warned that the ban would violate Switzerland’s obligations to freedom of religious expression.

‘Political symbol’

The president of Zurich’s Association of Muslim Organisations, Tamir Hadjipolu, told the BBC that if the ban was implemented, Switzerland’s Muslim community would live in fear.

“This will cause major problems because during this campaign in the last two weeks different mosques were attacked, which we never experienced in 40 years in Switzerland.

“So with the campaign… the Islamaphobia has increased very intensively.”

Sunday’s referendum was held after the People’s party collected 100,000 signatures from eligible voters within 18 months calling for a vote.

SVP member of parliament Ulrich Schluer said the campaign had helped integration by encouraging debate. He rejected the charge of discrimination.

In recent years many countries in Europe have been debating their relationship with Islam, and how best to integrate their Muslim populations.

France focused on the headscarf, while in Germany there was controversy over plans to build one of Europe’s largest mosques in Cologne.

The Islamophobes reaction is one of jubilation. Robert Spencer comments, “Swiss apparently vote to ban minarets, Because they symbolize a “political-religious claim to power” — which, of course, they do.”

Of course Pamela Geller wouldn’t be outdone by Spencer, she writes in a post titled Victory! Swiss Ban Mosque Minarets in a Landslide Vote,

HAMMER THEIR HELMETS! BLUNT THEIR BAYONETS! (metaphorical reference to no more mosques)The Swiss have hand enough. They actually had the spine to take back their country.

Further Reading on the story: Minaret Ban Wins Swiss Support